Rita Ora isn’t black, she’s a blackfish and here are the receipts
She said people thinking she’s black ‘gets her places’
In case you didn’t know, because apparently no one knew, Rita Ora isn’t black. The singer shot to fame in 2012 when she was featured on DJ Fresh’s “Hot Right Now” and then maintained her relevance that year by releasing the self titled debut album “Ora”, which included bops like “R.I.P” and “How We Do”. But fast forward to eight years later and she’s relevant for a very different reason. #RitaOra has been trending on Twitter over the past two days because of the mass recognition of the fact that she isn’t black.
So many people didn’t know. They thought she was black, or mixed, but she’s actually Albanian. She’s the same ethnicity as Dua Lipa. As a result, Rita Ora has found herself enveloped in new confrontational claims that she is a “blackfish”, which basically means an imitator of black women. And honestly: she is. The trouble with blackfishing is that it involves a non-black person directly benefiting from black culture without facing the negative realities that come with being black. Rita Ora’s selling point is her ability to embody a diluted form of blackness, to flirt with cultural bits and pieces like hairstyles and mannerisms.
Rita has never lied about being black. She has never claimed to be black when she isn’t. Her fans have leapt to her defence, saying she “talks about being Albanian loads” and claiming they had known she wasn’t black the whole time. “But… who thought she was black?” they’re saying. And no one, let alone me, is accusing her of calculated wrongdoing, still less racist conduct. It’s just that she needs to think through what’s she doing and grapple with being called out as a blackfish. Even if she didn’t know better, ignorance doesn’t absolve her of wearing an afro, braids, and banking off her racial ambiguity. Here’s all the evidence of Rita Ora being a blackfish.
She has worn an afro
Rita Ora is not black. She does not have natural afro hair. But she has worn an afro wig before and posted a picture of herself wearing it on Instagram. That is simply not okay. In the words of Pheobe Waller-Bridge: Hair is everything. Agree or disagree but hair is something that human beings attach great importance to. If this isn’t the case, why is it that black women face discrimination in work and in securing employment because they are told their braids and natural hair look unprofessional?
Rita Ora is a big fan of black hair. Which would be fine, if she didn’t wear it herself despite not being black. And the afro wasn’t the end of it…
She’s had braids, multiple times
Ooh and she’s always doing braids. Now I know that just by saying this, people want to label me a “Gen Z snowflake” or obsessed with “identity politics” but this obsession with braids is harmful. Her hair is only “cool” because her appropriation of blackness can be done for a show, or a celebration and tucked away conveniently when the party is over. Black people don’t get to pick and choose what parts of blackness they conform to. We have to deal with it all, and this is what makes cultural appropriation like this so frustrating. Oh AND she’s worn braid rings.
People clearly have a choice to wear their hair however they want but that doesn’t mean that we can’t scrutinize those choices. Particularly when a white woman chooses to cherry-pick black hairstyles and it’s seen as cool when ACTUAL black people are judged negatively for those styles.
She’s worn the Jamaican flag as a bikini top before
At London’s Notting Hill Carnival in 2013, your girl Rita donned a Jamaican flag printed bikini and a string vest. This isn’t her country, this isn’t her flag, and honestly, I think the choice is another example of her exploiting that racial ambiguity. People weren’t sure about her ethnicity, so couldn’t tell her not to make these fashion choices.
Actually, her fashion choices constantly flirt with black cultural symbols
Now, black cultural symbols are not possessions to be categorised and locked away for use purely by the community alone. However, the context behind their significance often gets erased by shallow engagement with the symbols without a real understanding of why those features are important.
For instance, Rita has worn outfits entirely based on the colours of the Pan-African flag before (above and also below, the reply tweet, pic three). You can’t prosecute someone for wearing three colours, but if you saw a white girl at a festival wearing this you’d probably shoot her some disapproving looks.
She lays her edges
Laying edges (slicking your baby hair) is popularised amongst black and brown people, and many have credited black flapper Josephine Baker for starting the trend in the 1920s. Sadly, people have noted that laying edges is just another example of something being “ghetto until fashionable” and Rita Ora is a serial offender of this crime.
She says she ‘might as well be’ black
Sorry but if you’re racially ambiguous you don’t understand the black struggle, so no, don’t “might as well be black” me.
She even said people thinking she’s black ‘gets her places’
I can’t even begin to unpick how wrong this is. Rachel Dolezal is alive and kicking, people.
However, Rita Ora is hardly the problem. She is just one blackfish in a sea of profiteers, such as Ariana Grande, Addison Rae and the Kardashians, who have co-opted black trends and bodyparts without the baggage. Rita might not even know what she’s doing, and some of those interviews were a while ago. Hopefully now, amongst all the educational discourse that has been floating about since Black Lives Matter, she’s grabbed onto a life raft and is leaving her blackfish life behind for good.